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Insights into a Remarkable Life Story of an NFL All-Star Pro Quarterback

As the National Spokesman since 1995, the name Steve Bartkowski has been closely associated with Christian Sportsmen's Fellowship in many ways to inspire sportsmen through the media as well as personal appearances at the Shot Show in Las Vegas along with numerous church sportsmen's banquets across America. A great role model for outdoorsmen, you are first and foremost a committed follower of Jesus Christ who "lives our before others what God has done on the inside"! 

As a dedicated family man you have served most prominently through the years in a leadership role as a husband and father bringing great encouragement to other men in navigating life's many joys and disappointments. As an All-Star pro quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons you also served as an icon in athletics by excelling in the very competitive world of the National Football League in racking up some very impressive game passing statistics. 

The readers of The Christian Sportsman magazine look forward to this article and thank you for the insightful highlights on a life well lived by one of our nation's true heroes in the Christian faith and leaders within the outdoors community. Let's jump right into the questions!

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Most recently, you were inducted into the College Football Hall-of-Fame located in Atlanta, Georgia. I am sure many past memories of your college football experience flashed across your mind. Tell us about your early years at Cal-Berkley?

I fondly remember my time at Cal. I set out with the goal of bringing the program back to respectability and relevance. I think we accomplished that during my time there. 

What was it like growing up in Des Moines Iowa then moving to sunny California? Tell us about your formative interests, hobbies and college education?

It was a move from the country to the big city for me. I love my early years in Iowa and missed the hunting and fishing opportunities that I so cherished there. Sports was always my first priority and what I lived for. My dad was an "around the clock" incredible coach and mentor for me.  He was great at keeping me on track toward my ultimate goal which was to be a pro athlete. California was a more challenging and competitive sports environment and I think that being there really helped me get better as an athlete. Although, I really missed the access to the outdoors that I had in Iowa.  

While playing quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons for over ten years what was it like during the height of each season as you as you experienced both victory and defeat? What we some of your career statistics?

The average person has no idea how hard it is to win consistently in the NFL.  I had some really good teams over a few years and some not so good teams during my career.  As a quarterback one thing you learn very quickly is the you are only as good as the people around you. The more good ones you have the better your results.  Football is definitely the ultimate team game.  

As a dedicated family man I know your deep commitment to your wife, sons and growing extended family. Tell us about your relationship with Sandee and your two boys?

Family, is and has always been, the most important aspect of my life.  Sandee has been the most incredible helpmate and completer that I could have ever asked for...she is amazing! An awesome mom to my boys Philip and Peter and with them now out of the house and on their own she finally has the freedom to pursue her own career in photography.  She's extremely talented and I'm so excited for her to have the chance to go for it.  Philip is married to a wonderful gal, Robyn, and they blessed us with an amazing granddaughter 9 years ago named Rane.  Two months ago Peter quit his job as a superintendent for DPR Construction, the company that both Philip and I work for, and moved to Montana to further pursue his love of the outdoors.  I am very happy for him and envy him greatly.  As a family we have always loved the manifold outdoor opportunities offered up by that great state.

How did your parents, especially your dad, invest quality and quantity time with you during your formative years?

My dad was a tremendous influence on me in every kind of way you can think of.  When I shared with him what I wanted to be when I grew up...he bought in fully.  He was a professional athlete himself playing baseball in the Chicago Cubs organization for nine years. He gave up all of his freedom and personal time and went "all in" to help me reach my goals. And in pursuit of that goal he taught me how to be a man...the kind of man that would make any dad proud.  I owe him everything and only hope that my boys will think as highly of me as I think of my Pop.  

Who were some of your role models and sports heroes?

Probably goes without saying that my dad was my role model...he downloaded me with everything I needed to be a successful human being.  My sports heroes were Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Bart Starr, Joe Namath, Johnny Unitas, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus. And let me add Curt Gowdy...always thought he had the ultimate job as host of The American Sportsman.

If you had taken the baseball career route how would life have been differently as a pro athlete? Length of your career, compensation, opportunity to excel, etc.? I always wonder about that...baseball was always my favorite sport.  Who knows the answer to all that might have come from that choice?  I am still a huge baseball fan...Go Braves!

What have been some of your greater life challenges off the field especially as you are approaching the "Golden Years" season? We as men need challenges...it's how we grow in life.  My biggest challenge came after retiring from football.  It took me a few years of trying to find something that would reignite the passion within me that was lost after stepping away from the game.  I finally found what I was looking for in the company I work for DPR Construction.  It was the perfect match for me...like football, building a construction project is the ultimate team effort.  It's been a really fun ride.

Why have you prioritized speaking opportunities across the country found in addressing sportsmen during church "Wild Game Banquets"?

If you love the outdoors, we can be friends.  Anyone who enjoys what God has created for us has something deep down inside of them that recognizes there is a Sovereign Creator of all this splendor.  So, wild game dinners become fertile soils for us, who have the "keys to the Kingdom" to share the gospel of our Lord.  The table has been set, so to speak, deep within sportsmen and women...the Creator has readied the harvest.

Regarding God's grace and living the Christian life from the heart rather than through religious performance, what do you believe are some of the greatest identity struggles facing men?

Christian men and women alike need to more fully understand and appropriate Galatians 2:20. The war against sin and judgment has been won and it is up to each of us learn to walk in the Spirit and allow Him to live out His life through the members of our flesh. And for Him to confront and convert others through our the testimony of: His death/my death...therefore, His life/my life!  Get out of the way and allow Him full control of the entirety of our lives.  Pretty simple but very, very deep!

Since your sons fit into the millennial generation age between 18 to 34, what do you believe are the greatest spiritual challenges facing this growing demographic population in America?

It's the same war everyone is engaged in...the fight against the one who would have us put our own needs and desires ahead of all else.  The desire we all have is to achieve happiness and fulfillment in life.  It's easy to get caught up into thinking that we might find it in things.  Things like a great job making lots of money where we are able to buy stuff that we think might make us happier or more fulfilled.  But the truth is that we will never find what we are looking for if we submit to this philosophy...the end will never justify the means. There is only one truth that can satisfy our heart...seek first His Kingdom and his righteousness and all these other things will be added unto you.  

                                                                   Bartkowski with son while on a pheasant hunt                  

 

                                                                 Bartkowski with son while on a pheasant hunt                  

 

Is the average local church effectively reaching the next generation of aspiring men? How or why not?

I'm not sure I know the answer to this question.  But I do know that any faithful church that preaches and presents the Gospel every week will be successful.  

As a family man with sons who enjoy hunting and fishing, how does the pursuits of outdoors recreation meet the need for family cohesion?

Years ago I heard a family life counselor claim that after years of studying the dynamics of long lasting marriages the one constant he discovered was that families that camped together stayed together.  So there must be something to that. 

While shooting skeet or hunting hogs and turkey you are known to be competitive even off the football field. Your passion for life is contagious even when pulling the trigger of a shotgun or drawing back a bow. Why?

I have always loved to compete...no matter what the activity, I want to win!  It's who I am.  I've always loved to be challenged and tested to see if I can measure up...to see if I can get it done.  

How do you see the future for men's ministry within church communities across our nation especially as it relates to fulfilling the Great Commission?

Men who truly love the Lord and belong to Him should be mindful that we are all called to this mission field.  We are to live in a way that is different than those who have never been enlightened and saved. If we allow the Holy Spirit dominion in our life He will confront the folks around us with the true message of hope...that is, Christ in us...our only hope of glory!

As a follower of Jesus Christ please tell us when and how God confirmed to you a "born-again" experience?

Well, this is an easy one.  When I surrendered my life through repentance for my sin and placed my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for me...I immediately knew that something had drastically altered my life.  Scripture says that "if any man is in Christ, the old things pass away and all things become new." My whole perspective about all things had been altered by the One who now lives inside of me...born again was I.

How do you personally know that God has a specific plan and purpose for your life and what is His purpose or mission for Steve Bartkowski?

I am confident of this one thing...every single day that I'm alive I need to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and He will take care of all the details. I have no idea what the future holds but I do know Who holds the future.  My sole desire is to live faithfully moment by moment and enjoy the ride. 

Why do you believe that so many men in our current culture are facing crisis regarding marriage, raising children, internet pornography, meaningful employment, leadership, etc.?

Again, we are living in a world that is lost.  We are engaged in a battle against a relentless foe, the devil, who will never quit trying to pull us away from the One who loves us with an everlasting love.  The wicked one knows our weaknesses and is quick to come after us along those lines. I'm reminded of the story of a young Christian...his pastor asked him, what do you do when the Devil comes knocking at your door?  He said...I let Jesus answer it.  Pretty simple but so profound. You see, the bible says..."greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world."  So in regards to how to deal with all the mess that comes our way the question is, do you truly believe that God is able to meet and defeat these challenges?  He can and will if you simply trust Him to do so.  

Looking back over the years of your life do you have any sage advice for young aspiring men of like Christian faith and outdoors passion?

Be different than those around you who are lost and perishing.  So different that they will be curious as to what exactly makes you so different. Let your walk precede your talk.  Live in a way that others will see your good works and that will bring glory to God.  Jesus said it best...love the Lord your God with all of you heart, soul, body, and mind and love your neighbor as yourself."  That sums up our ultimate purpose very succinctly. 

So in regards to how to deal with all the mess that comes our way the question is, do you truly believe that God is able to meet and defeat these challenges?

What is your favorite scripture verse and why? Galatians 2:20. Crucified with Him...His death/my death.  No longer I, but Him, now and forever.  Alive by Him...His life/my life.  A life lived out through the faith of the Son of God who loved me and delivered Himself up for me.  Hallelujah!!

We sure appreciate your investment of time for this personal interview regarding some very pointed questions about the life and faith of a man who has impacted so many of your football fans and fellow outdoorsmen. Thank you for allowing us to probe into your life through this magazine cover article to see the depths of a man of great faith and integrity ... a man after God's very own heart!

 


 
 
NFL All-Star Atlanta Falcon Quarterback

NFL All-Star Atlanta Falcon Quarterback